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Germany’s Cannabis Legalization Plan Faces Criticism Within Government

The bill to legalize adult-use cannabis for personal use in Germany is facing criticism from part of the coalition government.

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While Germany may become the third European country to legalize cannabis for personal use by this year after revising the initial plan that included the establishment of a legal market, interior ministers of the federal states have objected to the bill due to concerns about the potential burden it may place on law enforcement.

The conference of federal state interior ministers in June of last year concluded that they don't endorse several aspects of the Cannabis Act (CanG), arguing that the legalization may not alleviate criminal prosecution practices.

Furthermore, a joint resolution highlighted several negative effects on the efforts against organized crime, the protection of children and young people, as well as health protection, as documented in a report by the Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt, BKA) that was made public only in the last few days.

The report highlights several shortcomings in regulations related to the technical implementation of the law. It criticizes the German government's proposal for the controlled distribution of recreational cannabis, with the interior ministers of the federal states expressing concerns about the inadequacy of several key points.

They argue that the government's proposal insufficiently outlines the expected impacts and consequences of cannabis legalization for law enforcement, regulatory authorities, and public safety. The criticism focuses on potential burdens on law enforcement, highlighting challenges such as unclear regulations, unaddressed legal issues, and the likelihood of increased costs and tasks for policing and regulatory agencies. Additionally, the report stresses the need for further clarification and coordination at the state level to address uncertainties and potential challenges posed by the proposed legislation.

"Overall, it can be stated that the law enforcement and regulatory authorities of the federal states will be faced with additional tasks and expenses in the form of personnel and material costs, which cannot be quantified in detail at the present time," the report reads as translated into English.

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In addition to the concerns raised by the interior ministers of the federal states, there are also reported concerns from the federal Minister of Interior, Nancy Faeser, who belongs to the Social Democratic Party (SPD), the same party as the one in the coalition government, and the same party as Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, who advocates for legalization in Germany.

While Faeser's spokesperson clarified that the report didn't come from the Federal Ministry of the Interior (Bundesministerium des Innern und für Heimat, BMI) but is a commissioned report by the conference of German interior ministers of the federal states and prepared by the BKA, the BMI acknowledges and takes seriously the fears and concerns expressed by the states.

Lauterbach attempted multiple times to address safety concerns by proposing stringent controls on cultivation associations and enforcing consumption bans. The so-called Traffic Light Coalition (SPD, Free Democratic Party, and Alliance 90/The Greens) also pledged to alleviate the burden on the police and authorities as if consumers were not prosecuted, it would lessen the workload for law enforcement.

In fact, the coalition government – the report states – estimates an annual reduction of approximately €7.9 million ($8.5 million) in the burden on law enforcement authorities due to the legal permission to possess cannabis without punishment, citing a decrease in workload for police, regulatory authorities, and public prosecutors' offices. However, the interior ministers of the federal states question the reliability of this calculation.

While the SPD seems to be facing internal criticism over the legalization plan, the Greens and FDP are exerting pressure for the finalization of the process.

The criticism has also caused irritation among other parties in the so-called traffic light coalition government. Kristine Lütke, the FDP health politician and spokesperson for addiction and drug policy, said on X (formerly Twitter) that the criticism voiced by certain SPD domestic politicians is irritating because there has been sufficient time over the past year and a half to raise these objections.

In early December, the coalition announced that they had reached an agreement on the conclusive details, signaling that the cannabis legalization law is set to be passed in the Bundestag, but the vote on the law fell off the agenda again in the same month.

However, several local news media outlets reported last year that the legalization of cannabis possession and cultivation would take effect on April 1, 2024.


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